Leslie Smith is opening up about a potentially troubling brain scan.
Back in July, Smith shared that an MRI revealed she has only two percent of the gray matter typically found in the human brain. Gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system. Ahead of her fight with Amanda Bell at Bellator 245, Smith opened up about the diagnosis and shared the MRI results exclusively with Fightful.
"The MRI said I am two standard deviations below the general public, or at least the control group. They said I have two standard deviations below everybody else in the amount of gray matter that I had. That would give me either 94 or 96 percent less than everybody else. On the MRI it actually says two percent is what I have. I did talk to quite a few people because that is kind of scary," Smith told Fightful. "The MRI didn't indicate that was a result of fighting. It didn't have any lesions. They said if it had been from a head wound, then — in theory — it should have shown scar tissue, lesions and a wound to the gray matter. Because it didn't show any of those things, it means either it's healed and that's just the way that I am, or that I was born like that. There is no way to know any of that since I don't have a baseline."
If anyone tries to drug test me even an HOUR after I fight my last fight they better have a radioactive protection suit on to touch my samples. If they come FOUR DAYS after my last fight I'm going to be straight glowing. https://t.co/NyZU9ShvXk— Leslie Smith (@LeslieSmith_GF) July 28, 2020
Gray matter contains most of the brain's neuronal cell bodies. It includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control and sensory perception, such as sight, sound, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. Smith admitted she does experience symptoms that may pertain to reduced gray matter.
"Totally," she exclaimed. "It says stuff about not having a good memory and not being very good at controlling emotions. And not being very good with language. I definitely feel like I have experienced all of those things throughout my life."
"The worst that I have ever felt was when I was boxing a lot," Smith shared. "There was a short period of time when I was training boxing really hard and I was sparring every day for about three months. That is the stupidest that I have ever felt in my entire life. You know when you can't think of a word but there are a bunch of different words in your head? Like if you're trying to think of the word 'ball,' you may say 'round' or 'bounce' or 'tall.' Like you're close to it but you're slightly out of reach. When I was doing all that boxing, it felt like there was nothing there. This smooth, shiny, expansive surface of nothingness. That was pretty scary. I definitely cut down on the amount of sparring I was doing once I realized that."
With no way of determining a definitive cause, Smith chooses to remain optimistic about her results.
"I think I've decided that I want it to be something I was born with because that makes it okay for me to fight," she said. "I think until my career is over, I'm going to stick with the idea that I was born like that because I don't really want to think that I... you know."
"I think a lot of fighters have issues with their brain that nobody wants to talk about," she added. "Just being able to share that, 'Yeah, my brain is a little fucked up.' But it's just part of life. I hope that it makes other fighters feel a little better about admitting it so they can deal with it too."
Smith's MRI results note the following.
"Findings: There is no diffusion restriction indicative of acute ischemia or infarct. The gray-white matter differentiation is preserved. No midline shift, mass effect, or intra- or extra-axial fluid collection is identified. No focal or diffuse parenchymal abnormalities are identified. The gradient echo sequence does not exhibit areas of susceptibility reflective of blood products, calcifications, or sequela of traumatic brain injury. Sulci, gyri, ventricles, and cisterns are unremarkable. Flow voids within the major intracranial vessels are preserved. The sagittal TI sequence demonstrates unremarkable midline structures. The orbits are unremarkable. The paranasal sinuses and mastoid air cells are clear.
"Impression: No acute intracranial process. No sequela of traumatic brain injury. The brain volume is normal based on qualitative analysis. However, the quantitative analysis exhibits global cortical gray matter volume that is below two standard deviations (2nd percentile)."
Smith fights Bell on the undercard of Bellator 245. The event takes place on Friday, September 11 and is headlined by Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida. Keep up with Fightful for all your fight night coverage.